My Own Slice of Life on Kindergarten People
I used to be a kindergarten person, a kindergarten teacher that is. Kindergarten is unique, wonderful, bright, happy, new, and every day is exciting. When I was going to school to be a teacher I thought I wanted to be a second or third grade teacher. I definitely did not want to teach anything lower than second grade. I thought. I was hired as a kindergarten teacher and I fell in love. Not just with teaching, but with this place, this room, these kids, their minds, their motivation, their questions, the light bulbs going on over their heads all day long.
The sad part is that as happy as I was, there were these little five year olds in front of me that were dealing with some tough times at home. I heard the words “I’m hungry” a lot. I saw teary eyes and not because someone took their pencil or pulled their hair. They were sad about things that I never had to experience. There were kindergartners in foster care, kindergartners with parents in jail, kindergartners that never met one of their parents, kindergartners that didn’t eat breakfast, kindergartners that didn’t have mittens in the winter, kindergartners that didn’t have books at home. I’ll never forget one winter when I was reading a book about Santa to my class and one kindergartner shouted out “There’s no such thing as Santa.” Some of the other kids in the class gasped and stared at me to make it all better. I looked at that student and I said “I believe there is a Santa.” He responded by saying “Then why doesn’t he come to my house?” My heart sank. I believed in Santa until I was ten years old! Santa still brings me presents on Christmas morning. These kindergarten people were sad and on some days my heart ached for them.
Despite all of their own sadness, they came to be with me during the day to learn to read and write and spell and count and think and speak and belong. I made it my own personal mission to create a happy home for them at school where they were fed and talked to and felt loved and felt safe. At Christmas time there were mittens and books under the tree for every child. And every day there were hugs and smiles and stickers and celebrations of our learning.
Kindergarten is the place, not just the grade level, where some kids experience learning for the first time… ever! I saw that happen every day. I watched my kindergartners figure life out. The happy part is that they did it. They did learn and they did check their sadness at the door, most of the time. When they couldn’t leave their troubles behind, we dealt with it. Sometimes with words, and sometimes with hugs. As often as I heard “I’m hungry,” I also heard my kindergartners call me “Mom.” They were just used to saying it at home I’m sure, but during the school day I was their teacher, the adult that cared for them, the one that taught them and helped them and loved them. I was their “school mom” and I took that job very seriously. I was part of their upbringing and I considered them mine for nine months of the year.
Kindergarten people melt my heart. I will never forget the years I spent with my kindergartners. I will never forget all that they taught me.